Representatives of various countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as multilateral organizations and the United Nations system, today called for changing the paradigm of international cooperation, and for generating a common regional position on South-South and triangular cooperation leading up to the United Nations High-Level Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40), to be held in March 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
During the panel on the challenges facing middle-income countries leading up to the Second United Nations High-Level Conference on South-South Cooperation, which took place in the framework of ECLAC’s thirty-seventh session being held in Cuba, participants discussed the global and local challenges when it comes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which require ever greater international cooperation and reorientation toward transitional development.
The meeting presided by Ileana Núñez, Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX), also heard remarks from Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Ernesto Pfirter, Argentina’s Ambassador to Cuba; Agustín García-López, Executive Director of the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID); Jorge Chediek, Envoy of the Secretary General on South-South Cooperation and Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation; Fernando García Casas, Spain’s State Secretary for International Cooperation and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean; and Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Development and International Cooperation.
In her opening remarks, Ileana Núñez pointed out that the region faces important challenges to attaining sustainable development. “The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and meeting its SDGs, along with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, demand comprehensive action from our countries,” said the Deputy Minister of Cuba, the country that today assumed the presidency of ECLAC’s Committee on South-South Cooperation.
Ambassador Ernesto Pfirter underscored the role played by “middle-income countries,” showing considerable growth in recent years and accumulating greater resources of their own. However, he added, the system of cooperation for development has interpreted that growth in a restricted manner in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is determined by GDP per capita. He explained that since these countries have passed the preset threshold for receiving this assistance, they have “graduated” and, therefore, ceased to receive it.
“With the approval of the 2030 Agenda, it is impossible to maintain a concept of development basely solely on growth. The must be reframed. Financial and non-financial support is vital to avoid compromising progress toward meeting the SDGs,” he emphasized.
Agustín García-López highlighted that the paradigms of international cooperation, of the supposed north and south, are already being broken and it is essential that we advance toward horizontal cooperation in which all countries can learn from each other.
“The current challenges are global and go way beyond any government. Unity and clear goals are the only way we can make a difference through cooperation,” he stated.
Jorge Chediek explained the mechanics of the next BAPA+40 Conference, to be held March 20-22, 2019 in Buenos Aires in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Action Plan (adopted in 1978). He indicated that the conference is open to all United Nations Member States, as well as other non-governmental and multilateral stakeholders. Its central theme will be the role of South-South cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
“We need more and better South-South cooperation, because the traditional modalities will not be sufficient to achieve the 2030 Agenda. South-South and triangular cooperation do make the difference,” he asserted.
Jolita Butkeviciene, in her remarks, said the European Union (EU) sees South-South and triangular cooperation as a unique tool for supporting the 2030 Agenda. “We want to achieve more strategic forms of cooperation with our partners from Latin America and the Caribbean, since this could help to reinforce the multilateral system,” she said.
Fernando García Casas pointed out that today the middle classes play a central role and are asking for more growth and State transparency, as well as the provision of quality public services. “Cooperation can also play an important role in this,” he said.
In addition to emphasizing that it is not possible to think about withdrawing cooperation from middle-income countries due to the existence of a broad joint agenda, he underscored that Latin America and the Caribbean have always defended multilateralism and the creation of global public assets. “The 2030 Agenda and other global initiatives would make no sense if it weren’t for this region,” he said.
In her closing remarks for the event, Alicia Bárcena emphasized the need for a new paradigm of international cooperation that must take into account the multi-dimensional nature of development and go beyond traditional measures like GDP.
“International cooperation should include a new set of modalities, such as the creation of capacities, knowledge exchange and transfer of technology,” she said.
Bárcena added that the 2030 Agenda is such a strong change of paradigm that it requires rethinking aspects of measurement, although one of the biggest challenges is its means of implementation.
The BAPA+40 conference is a huge opportunity for our region to contribute to this discussion, above all regarding ways of measurement. We are in transition, in search of which new concepts and statistics we need, and in that process our donors – especially the European Union – can help us,” she said.
In addition to praising South-South cooperation with Asia Pacific, particularly with regard to the Republic of Korea and China, Bárcena pointed out that Latin America and the Caribbean must have its own concept of measurement that reflects its own realities. She underscored the need to support the countries of the Caribbean, who suffer the double burden of being considered middle-income nations and, in addition, do not have access to concessional funding.
“ECLAC is entirely at your disposal to consider and define what we are talking about and how to go forward with South-South cooperation. To paraphrase an Italian philosopher, ‘We do not come to agreement when we find the truth; we find the truth when we come to agreement,’” she concluded.